Stress is caused by an individual’s perception of what is occurring around them (their environment), what they perceive to be occurring from others (external pressure) and internal emotions that might be deemed stressful to them.
When aspects of life appear threatening, stress can accumulate, and this is heightened if the individual does not believe they have the resources required to deal with it.
Psychological stress is linked both indirectly and directly to illness. Indirectly, it causes behaviours which are inherently unhealthy such as smoking, drug usage, alcohol usage, risk taking, over-eating and isolating oneself. Directly, stress is linked to increases in certain hormones such as cortisol, which can have negative affects across the body and directly – especially if this remains chronically increased.
Chronic stress is by far the most serious out of all the different kinds of stress, as a pronounced stress response over an extended time period will damage both your physical and mental health significantly. As mentioned, when your stress levels rise, you’ll release the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for a whole variety of metabolic functions, such as helping to regulate your thyroid hormone.
The thyroid regulates nearly every major metabolic function in your body, and as such, a poor functioning thyroid can have a detrimental effect on nearly every area of your health. Multiple examples of poor thyroid function include weight gain, reduced metabolic rate, fatigue, feeling depressed or moody, dry hair and skin, and many more.
Cortisol is our friend most of the time and only becomes an issue if it’s produced at the wrong time and in the wrong amount.
Sleep deprivation has an immediate effect with an increase in cortisol levels and a decrease in growth hormone production. Therefore, if you’re staying up late, and playing on your phone or checking your emails, then your cortisol levels will be elevated, and you will literally be breaking down your muscle tissue for energy at an increased rate.
This is called gluconeogenesis and refers to when valuable muscle tissue is broken down into sugar (glucose).
It will also be difficult to lose any unwanted bodyfat when you are stressed with permanently raised cortisol levels. Cortisol is an extremely anabolic hormone to fat, and a very catabolic hormone to muscle, which is pretty much the complete opposite to what we want.
Women, after going through the menopause, can suffer tremendously with putting on extra fat. As testosterone, which has the complete opposite effect to cortisol takes a plunge, as well as other key hormones.